Throughout photography’s history, failure has played an essential, recurring part in the development and perceived value of this medium. Exploring a range of failures – individual and institutional, technological and historiographical – Photography and Failure asks what it means to fail and considers how this narrative of failure has shaped our understanding of photography. From the trial-and-error beginnings of photochemistry to poor business decisions influenced by fickle public opinion and taste, the founders and early practitioners of photography frequently faced bankruptcy and ignominy. Alongside these individual ‘failures’, this collection of essays examines the role of museums in rediscovering, preserving and presenting photographs within institutions, as well as technological limitations, such as the problematic panoramic lens or the digital, archival failures of Snapchat. Moving beyond the physical photograph and these processes, the book also investigates the limitations of photographs themselves, as purveyors of truth, time, space, documentary realism and social change, whether these failures are used to effect or not. Finally, the book probes the historiographical failures affecting the discipline, drawing on key debates, such as the perceived over-emphasis on European and American photography, and the place of photography theory in contemporary art practice. Blurring the boundaries between traditional binaries of art and non-art photography, amateur and professional practice, and individual and corporate perspectives, Photography and Failure presents a new approach to understanding and evaluating photographic history.
Table of Contents
List of FiguresNotes on Contributors1. Introduction: Noble Failure: Photography as Tragic MuseKris Belden-Adams, University of Mississippi, USA2. 'Nothing Worthy of Notice'?: The Daguerreian Gallery of T. P. and D. C. Collins in PhiladelphiaAnne Verplanck, Pennsylvania State University, USA3. Rodchenko's Photographic CommunismTodd Cronan, Emory University, USA4.Exile and Erasure: Forgetting Ilse BingDonna West Brett, University of Sydney, Australia5. Mechanisms of Institutional Failure, or the Impossible National Museum of French PhotographyEléonore Challine, Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) de Cachan, France6. Crimes Seen and Unseen: Fantasies and Failures of Photographic Truth in Joel Sternfeld's On This Site and Trevor Paglen's Limit TelephotographyCatherine Zuromskis, Rochester Institute of Technology, USA7. Toward an Ontology of African Studio PortraitureAllison Moore, University of South Florida, USA8. Composita, the 'Mascot' of the Smith College Class of 1886: Picturing Sisterhood, Social Caste, Gender RolesKris Belden-Adams, University of Mississippi, USA9. Capturing the Invisible: Affect, Loss and the Problematics of the Panoramic Image in Josef Sudek's Sad LandscapesAmy Hughes, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA10. Default Delete: Photographic Archives in a Digital AgeKate Palmer Albers, University of Arizona, USA11. Copies and Clouds: Charles Nègre and the Death of EmulationJacob W. Lewis, University of Rochester, USA12. Thirty Times Failed: Valério Vieira and Experimental Photography in BrazilCezar Tadeu Bartholomeu, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil13. Success and Failure in African PhotographyKevin Mulhearn, University of New Mexico, USA14. Afterword: Failure, Beautiful FailureGeoffrey Batchen, Victoria University of Wellington, New ZealandBibliographyIndex
Kris Belden-Adams is Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Mississippi, USA. Her scholarly work on the history of art, photography and visual culture has been published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Photographies, Southern Studies, Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism, The International Journal of Technology, Knowledge and Society and Cabinet.